Editorials & Opinion

The Common Linnets: A miraculous success story

As the year is coming to an end, it’s time to look back on the most memorable moments of the Eurovision year 2014. The first topic we’re going to discuss: The Common Linnets. What went right for them, but more, what on earth went so wrong before, during and after the Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen…?

It’s 12 March. Five months before this day, Dutch broadcaster AvroTros reveals The Common Linnets as their entry for Copenhagen. In itself, doesn’t say much, but the names going behind that group say so much to all Dutch fans. Possibly one of the biggest stars in the country, Ilse DeLange, has formed a country music ensemble to honour the great names of country music. In that group are so many talented musicians: not only Ilse, but also the Americans Jake Etheridge, Matthew Crosby and his brother, Rob Crosby. A famous Dutch guitar player is also part of it: JB Meijers. And then there’s that last name we all know: Waylon. A rather successful artist with a few albums to his name, but not matching up to the name Ilse has created for herself. An odd duo doing Eurovision with country music. What to expect? A disaster or a piece of magic?

On the day of release, Calm After The Storm seems to be going for the first option: disaster. In the studio, both guests (one of which is Paul de Leeuw) aren’t in love with the song: not enough power in the song, doesn’t get going, but most of all: no chemistry between Ilse DeLange and Waylon. Paul de Leeuw didn’t know how right he was when he said that…
Also in the fan community, people were missing the magic Anouk brought in 2013 with Birds. Reactions seemed to have a trend: from ‘dull as dishwater’ to ‘The Netherlands will struggle to qualify’ to ‘This is looking like a dead certain non-qualifier’: not a lot of positivity and to quote one of the reactions online again, Nashville didn’t really need to worry about these two Dutch artists doing some country song. And in the middle of all these reactions, there was a hardcore group who seemed to believe in a qualification, even a top ten for The Netherlands. I never thought these people could be right. A final? Maybe. Top ten? If hell froze over perhaps…

As the contest came closer, no one really knew what to expect. The duo seemed to flop in their home country, so what hope was there for the rest of Europe? Until Hans Pannecoucke and Ilse DeLange were able to show what they had thought of for their performance. Chances started to grow, bookmakers started to give the song a chance. Well, a chance? They climbed from #26 to #13 with bookmakers after their first rehearsal. Nothing to get too excited over, but there was a shift towards positivity from everywhere: the home country, the fan community, the press, bookmakers. And then there was the big day: 6 May 2014, the first semifinal of Eurovision 2014. The Common Linnets seemed to give a good performance. With chemistry… or so it seemed. Envelope #9, there they were: The Netherlands had qualified for the final for the second year in a row. Parties everywhere, promises live on Dutch television to go to a bar and wake up with a massive hangover.

Fans started to believe in this fairytale more and more… and more. With bookmakers, the song climbed to #2, only behind Sweden. Just before the final, on Saturday 10 May, they were #3 with bookmakers. Behind Sweden, but also behind the other miraculous success story: Austria, who we’ll talk about in a next story.
The final was broadcast, the voting was exciting. Ilse and Waylon got the douze points they wanted: eight times. Even from those countries the Dutch Eurovision community wasn’t too fond of: the East. ‘Oh the East, they always give each other those high points. We’re chanceless.’ – A common saying before 2013. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Poland: all of them gave The Common Linnets their twelve points. In the end, bookmakers weren’t too far off: The Common Linnets finished in a respectable second place.

Gold seemed to shine at the horizon when the Dutch came home: the single was selling all over Europe, record labels wanted the album to be released in their countries. In one of the most popular talkshows, the duo appeared and even stated ‘It would be stupid not to continue this duo.’ But then the European tour came up and in Germany and in Austria, Waylon was nowhere to be found. Ilse performed with JB Meijers and with Jake Etheridge. But not with that man with his hat we used to see there. Thinking about what happened after Eurovision, the bubble soon burst: on 28 May, Waylon posted an official statement, stating he would focuss on his solo career. Fine, that’s his choice and he made the statement after he’d been the subject of a ‘Lost and Found’ campaign in his home country, where even the Minister of Safety reacted. All of it happened with a laugh, but what happened after was nothing to laugh about.

Now I know, those of you who know me, know that I am a huge fan of Ilse DeLange, so I’ve looked at all that’s happened since May with a big frown on my face. Until today, I have no clue what has happened between them, but there are a few things we can say about it.
Since leaving The Common Linnets, Waylon has spoken multiple times about what happened between him and Ilse, from his point of view. If I recall correctly, three times. Once on the day he left the group, the second time when promoting his album and a third time in a documentary about him that was aired last week, KRO Profiel. Ilse DeLange has always refused to speak about it, except for one short clip during RTL Late Night, on 29 August. She called it the ‘darkest period of her career’, a statement which Waylon later, in the latest documentary ,explained as ‘She didn’t really go through much in her career then.’ It is somewhat logical that the two have never been at the same table on TV to explain what caused all of this. Not only because there seems to be a lot that went wrong between them, but also because they haven’t spoken to each other since the Tuckerville Concert in June.

The documentary about Waylon shows a one-sided view. Now again, no one knows whether this is the way it actually happened, we only have his side (and his manager’s side) of the story. Not Ilse, not JB’s, not Jake’s. Just Waylon’s. But what can we say about the title of this post: miraculous success? Yes, the miracle is partly caused by the fact no one would’ve given them a chance to finish in the top three when they released their song in March, but the second part definitely comes from what we’ve been told in the documentary. During Eurovision, Waylon and Ilse apparently hardly spoke to each other. They didn’t share tables at dinner, they didn’t share much, except those three minutes on stage and the moments before the cameras. It is a miracle that they ended up delivering a performance, when at times it must’ve looked like they were never going to speak to each other again.

That just leaves me with one question: What on earth was the problem between these two? Was it the surprise of success? Was it the old devil called money? Or was it simply a clash of characters that was never meant to work out for much longer than needed? I’d say this third option is highly likely. Ilse is an artist who takes control over everything she does: how the lights look, how cameras work, microphone stands – not even the tiniest detail will escape her attention. She was one of only two stage directors for their performance. She’s part of most of the songs on the album and quite frankly, she is the centre of The Common Linnets. And Waylon? A guy who does what he wants to do, does what his heart tells him to do and just sees what happens. I don’t think he’s a guy of tight schedules, he’s a guy of living his life to the fullest. And that simply was never going to work out. These two artist click on stage, but off stage, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t click and it’s a good thing they split up before things could get worse.

All in all, The Common Linnets achieved something they can be proud of for the rest of their lives. The Common Linnets are still going strong, with a Christmas single out now and a new album coming up. But all of it without Waylon. And yes, I happily admit to being a huge Ilse DeLange fan who now gets a bitter taste when thinking about Waylon. But for now, let’s just end this with looking at the performance Ilse and Waylon gave on 10 May 2014 in Copenhagen…

Next up: Three times lucky for Valentina Monetta! Stay tuned for the next part of this series!

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